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back to article Curiosity team: Massive collision may have killed Red Planet

Dual tests by instruments on the Curiosity rover, combined with data from the first Viking probes and Mars meteorites that have fallen to Earth, suggests that the Red Planet lost its atmosphere within the first billion years of its history, according to two papers in the latest issue of Science. Curiosity's tunable laser …

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What can evolve in a billion years? On Earth, quite a lot. On Mars, maybe more.

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Paris Hilton

You can get to photosynthesis, but Mars is smaller and colder, so the laboratory needs more time.

Now, if Pluto rammed Mars, wouldn't that have zeroed the surface of the whole ball and be evident??

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Anonymous Coward

May have this, and may have that?

They really have no idea do they.

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It is evident

One theory is that the impact was so great that it stopped Mars' core from spinning, pretty much killing all possibility of life there.

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Unhappy

It is evident that Mars looks like the icon on the right.

And for linking to "http://electric-cosmos.org/" ... WTF man? Bizarro stuff some guy makes up in his basement ahoi!

Anything else?

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@AC

No, actually this news story comes from a press release that describes one idea that they do have, based on the evidence that they've gathered. Finding evidence and coming up with theories that explain the evidence and allow you to make predictions is called science. If you don't like it, I suggest you consult your nearest homoeopathist, who'll no doubt help you through the trauma.

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If Pluto swung close enough to hit Mars it would have melted away before it had chance to do any damage.

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RTFA

"a planetoid the size of Pluto"

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Impact? Isn't lower G and solid core sufficient?

Mars is less massive than Earth. Mars has a negligible magnetic field compared to Earth. If the latter has been true for a long time, isn't that sufficient to explain how the sun's solar wind stripped all the water from Mars? Note, water vapour is the lightest gas in the atmosphere. Methane (a likely major component of Earth's early atmosphere) is even lighter.

So do they really need to postulate a catastrophe? (Other than the freezing of whatever liquid/magnetic core Mars might once have had, which would have been a catastrophe for Mars life when taking the long view).

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Anything else?

Of course, how could there not be something else. It takes about a minute at Google to find it.

Although I have to admit that I linked to the wrong photo.

"Bizarro stuff some guy makes up in his basement ahoi!"

You got to admit that some random guy in a basement sending a probe to Mars to take photos is quite an impressive feat.

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Re: Impact? Isn't lower G and solid core sufficient?

Mars "stole" atmosphere and water from the Earth in the Theia impact (that created the Moon - and Mars - at the right tilt ...). Mars didn't have the gravity to hold on to its stolen atmosphere so it sublimated into space (though many of the mechanisms you speak of).

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Coat

Re: RTFA

"a planet the size of Pluto" in my day. Revisionism is fab.

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Coat

Re: Impact? Isn't lower G and solid core sufficient?

> stolen atmosphere

But can it be found on Pirate Bay? Quick, call the RIAA.

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Headmaster

Dear fandom...

Finally a good link

Unfortunately it is marred somewhat by the second link to WiseGeek where the author is terminally confused about the Northern Basin and Vallis Marineris not being the same thing at all. Not-so-WiseGeek also says "Moon-sized object nearly hit Mars, but instead scraped a deep scar in the planet".

NO! The MIT article says

"We knew there must be impacts between these size ranges," Zuber says. "But nobody had identified one." Analysis in the theoretical papers accompanying this one show that the impacting object that produced the huge basin on Mars must have been about 2,000 km across - larger than Pluto -- and struck at an angle of about 45 degrees, creating the oval shape of the basin.

I would say that's a "full absorbtion impact". Masses of that size do not behave like billard balls. They behave like very liquid droplets.

Must have been a slow-motion impact though so that the southern half of Mars is even retaining any trace of the before-impact era.

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Anonymous Coward

You're right

it'd have disintegrated into some sort of belt. Of asteroids. Near Mars.

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Alien

Electric Universe

Actually, years ago - well decades really - the electric universe idea even got play in Scientific American. Some of the empirical elements such as Alfven Waves are still important ideas and were observed for instance on the sun in 2011. The most important proponent of the idea was Hannes Alfven, who won a Nobel in 1970. Details of the structure of objects like the "Red Suare Nebula" - http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap110323.html - are less difficult to explain using EU concepts than when using standard gravitational model ideas. So, no, not one guy working out of his basement. Just a non-mainstream theory that doesn't get much respect these days.

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Re: Impact? Isn't lower G and solid core sufficient?

Yes, AFAIK the theory that the solar wind stripped the atmosphere off Mars after its core solidified and, therefore, Mars lost its protective magnetic field is still the leading theory.

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So, a smaller sibling of Earth got smacked hard and died.

Earth got smacked harder, but being larger, hence, hardier, Earth survived.

Initially, I was considering rejection, based upon the current Earth's and Mars magnetic field, but then, I considered the mass of each and reconsidered.

Less massive, cool faster. Geomagnetic field dies sooner. Remnant of atmosphere is erased sooner.

No Barsoom here, move on.

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Anonymous Coward

Screw that

Bring me Dejah Thoris now!!!!

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IIRC some of the recent theories on the Earth and Moon, there was one body initially and something comparatively large smacked into it, possibly shattering and then leaving or possibly merging with the resultant mess. In the debris that was left the Earth reformed out of the larger set of debris and the moon formed from the accretion(?) disk.

It's a neat solution to the problem of why Earth has such an enormous satellite and as I understand it, the chemical make up of both bodies does lend some support to it.

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Same impact. Mars is the former core of the Earth - being replaced by a large chunk of iron (the impactor). It took water and atmosphere from the Earth as it departed.

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Where the Earth impactor story came from...

There is ample evidence that the Moon is spiraling away from Earth, over time. It is getting about 3.8 cm/year further away from Earth. Winding that backwards gives a timeframe for separation of the Moon from Earth.

Apollo data indicates that the Moon was not 'captured', like Mars's two satellites were. The Moon has lower density than the earth, but its chemical composition is of a type expected at Earth's orbital distance from the Sun.

The numbers for separation are all about 4.5 Bn years ago, so things-still-orbiting within Mars's orbit are unlikely to be evidence from that. It is all a theory, so no one 'knows', though.

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Re: Where the Earth impactor story came from...

Or is the Earth moving away from the Moon? What if that were the case?

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The Theia impact (The Big Whack) is what you speak of. I posit that that impact created the Moon and Mars. For the Moon, it actually created 2 blobs that eventually came together to form the Moon (Asphaug's theory).

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Joke

Lets face it,

the chances of anything coming from mars are a million-to-one

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Alien

Re: Lets face it,

but still they come!

dun-dun-durrrr

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Re: Lets face it,

million to one chances crop up nine times out of ten

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The Second Coming ...... and in Steganographic Code for Stealthy Colonisation of Invaded Forces

What can evolve in a billion years? On Earth, quite a lot. On Mars, maybe more. … Palf Posted Friday 19th July 2013 00:56 GMT

Hmmm? …. Evolution on Mars is revolutionary thinking, Palf …… and it would illogical and naive to not imagine that it be, whenever maybe more advanced, also counter-revolutionary and a quantum quandary for intelligence and presumably intelligent species to ponder and wonder at … and for primitives to definitely waste time and effort [which are a limiting, universal unlimited source and resource] worrying about and fearing what they don't know, but know is out there and a'coming in all manner of irregular and unconventional phorms/means/memes in Complete Command and Complex Control of ITSignals and AIMessages to/from/for Global Operating Devices with SMARTR IntelAIgent Systems of Remote Virtual Operation with Untouchable Intangible User Interfacing for Fault Tolerant Cyber Security and Failsafe Virtual Protection?!.

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Go

Re: The Second Coming ...... and in Steganographic Code for Stealthy Colonisation of Invaded Forces

Mars is still here! I was worried when I didn't see any comments from him on the NSA articles; good to see the SMARTR AI Global Interdiction Quantum Drones didn't get him.

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Anonymous Coward

Re. Martian evolution

Google "Shultslaboratories", Sir Charles has extensively studied the data from the MER and other sources and conclusively proved the existence of fossils on the Martian surface.

Of course, NASA still won't admit that they even exist, but a catastrophic loss of atmosphere would have preserved the surface quite effectively so it is possible that in the past some sort of oceanic Cambrian Explosion could have occurred on Mars leading to very similar fossils being laid down.

The presence of perchlorates wasn't known at the time of the Viking missions so the negative life result on some of the instruments could have been explained; perchlorates are basically rocket fuel and if Mars had achiral life ie the amino acids and proteins the other way around then this alone could explain a lot.

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Facepalm

Re: Re. Martian evolution

Uh-huh. And, um, you find this "proof" compelling?

He's mad, and you're mad for believing him. I like the way he arranged to be "Sir" Maddie McMad, though, very clever...

GJC

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Alien

Re: Re. Martian evolution

However, life never having got going due to a harsh environment would also fit the evidence, and explain a lot too....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Re. Martian evolution

It's the oil companies keeping quiet about their alternative resource, shh don't tell everyone! ;)

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Re: Re. Martian evolution

if Mars had achiral life ie the amino acids and proteins the other way around then this alone could explain a lot.

If you believe that amino acids and proteins could be achiral, then that would explain a lot too.

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Re: Gussie

"If you believe that amino acids and proteins could be achiral, then that would explain a lot too."

I think he means that they might have had the opposite chirality but it is hard to be sure due to all the insanity.

Out of interest is there a simple proof that you couldn't make an achiral protein-building system? Is there a level of complexity of carbon chemistry at which chirality is unavoidable and below which there's an insufficient range of possible structures?

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Devil

Re: Re. Martian evolution

> It's the oil companies keeping quiet about their alternative resource

You now picture Weyland-Yutani ferrying in enough hydrocarbon to suck all the oxygen out of the atmosphere.

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Re: Gussie

You can make a chiral molecule with five atoms (e.g. CHFClBr).

One you have a couple of branches in the carbon backbone it's pretty inevitable.

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FAIL

Re: Re. Martian evolution

'Conclusively proved', eh? I think the term you actually meant to use was 'hypothesised', or possibly 'scammed', since the web site that turns up appears to be touting a book, amongst other things. I'll believe this conclusive proof, once the author of that website has his orbital power stations up and running, which he promises 'very soon'. I stopped looking at the site after this, as it appears to have broken the needle on my bullshit detector.

Also, 'catastrophic' things tend to not preserve things well due to their, umm, catastrophic nature. Unless you have a different definition of the word catastrophic to everyone else. Usually in astronomical terms, it refers to something large hitting something larger, the sort of thing that woudn't so much leave things preserved, as leave them as a large glassy crater.

Also, the word you are looking for is not achiral. Achiral means a lack of chirality, i.e. compounds which are asymmetric, or consist of both enantiomeric isomers in equal measure (which would normally be referred to as racemic, as they still are not strictly achiral). The word you were probably looking for is heterochiral, meaning 'of the opposite chirality', but that would have to involve you learning something about chemistry rather than just pretending you do.

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Boffin

Re: Gussie, chirality

Depending on what you hang on the bonds on a C-atom, you can hit chirality at C2 molecules.Play-Doh (in various colours) and matchsticks have always been the friend of those with an inquistive mind there...

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Boffin

Re: Gussie

Re: Peter Ford

You can make a chiral molecule with four atoms, if you use Nitrogen, as its lone pair is steroegenic, for example you could make chiral ammonia if you had one hydrogen atom, one deuterium,and one tritium. It would probably flip between the enantiomers pretty quickly though, so you'd probably have to keep it cold to keep it stable. Oh, and it would be radioactive, but you get my point...

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IT Angle

Re: Gussie

> Is there a level of complexity of carbon chemistry at which chirality is unavoidable and below which there's an insufficient range of possible structures?

That's pretty much it - chemical complexity or symmetry, you can't have both.

The carbon atom has a propensity to bond with other atoms or groups of atoms. The resultant organic molecules are three dimensional and have different shapes dependant on their composition. Stereochemistry is the study of these molecular shapes and how they interact; while the term 'chiral' describes a particular stereochemical property of an atom or molecule.

Sterochemistry is undoubtedly a consideration in the chemistry of life, where complex molecules interact like 3d jigsaw pieces. Proteins (with one exception) by their very nature posesss chirality. So, to refer to 'achiral' proteins is simply gobbledygook. In IT terms, it's like saying compiled C runs faster than uncompiled C.

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Re: Gussie

Out of interest is there a simple proof that you couldn't make an achiral protein-building system? Is there a level of complexity of carbon chemistry at which chirality is unavoidable and below which there's an insufficient range of possible structures?

Sort of, and yes. A chiral molecule is any molecule with four non-identical sub-groups bonded to one Carbon atom. (There are also lots of other sources of chirality, but that one will do to start with). So, almost any complex carbon-based molecule will have a non-identical mirror-imaged form.

The more interesting question is whether mirror-life is likely to have evolved elsewhere in the universe. Life based on much the same building blocks as ours, but all components the mirror image of ours. Classical chemistry provides no reason why not. Quantum physics reveals that the weak nuclear force is itself chiral, and that there's a tiny difference in stability between Earthlife amino acids and their mirror-world alternatives. It's only about one part in 10^24, but there's a tipping-point in that L bonds stably with L, D bonds stably with D, and mixxed amino-acid polymers are much less stable than pure-L or pure-D ones. Ours is the mort stable. Evolutionary coin-toss, or inevitability?.

All speculation until we find some other instances of life. May be a long wait.

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Alien

As any fule no...

'twas the Red Moon that destroyed life on Mars.

http://www.dandare.org/dan/stories/redmoon/redmoon.htm

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Interesting science and a cautionary tale for us as well?

It sounds like Mars could have been quite a lot like Earth at one time, but with taller people.

But lose 99.9% of your atmosphere and.....

One wrong move in the great game of celestial pool and the Martians would be saying that about us.

Thumbs up for 2 paths to this result.

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Maybe it was just one impact

Maybe the Earth impact that created the moon - also created Mars? Makes a lot more sense then these Nasa jokers who don't explain EVERYTHING (how did Mars get its atmosphere and water in the first place? Why is Mars tiled at a similar angle to the Earth? Why are Martian rocks very similar to Earth's mantle rocks?). I have a better theory, read mine. http://rampsontheory.blogspot.com

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WTF?

Re: Maybe it was just one impact

Good grief, is it the hot weather bringing them all out, or has there been some change to the Care in the Community rules recently?

GJC

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Trollface

Re: Maybe it was just one impact

Nah it's the public "health" budget cuts (coupled to salary increases for state employees to give full-spectrum austerity) and companies buying up all the lithium for batteries...

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Alert

Re: Maybe it was just one impact

The silly season has arrived, is all.

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